"Tea party activists and business groups love Gov. Rick Scott's plan, but a lawmaker calls it 'the most callous, destructive, hurtful, archaic budget that you could put forward.'"
Last year, agencies that help Florida's homeless received nearly $7 million in state funding to assist more than 74,000 people."Budget cuts hit vulnerable groups".
But that money was wiped out of the budget unveiled by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, which called for elimination of the state's Office of Homelessness.
His dramatic slashes to the budget target some of the state's most vulnerable groups.
In addition to cutting the homelessness office, Scott's budget calls for moving trust funds that pay for indigent criminal defense and domestic violence and rape crisis programs into general revenue coffers.
He also wants to end programs that encourage state contracting with minority businesses and suicide prevention efforts in public schools.
And he proposes killing the state's Coastal Clean-up Trust Fund, ending taxes on waste tire disposal, dry cleaning, batteries, fertilizer and other pollutants.
Scott's "deceptive" tax cut claims
"The $540-per-household figure Scott used to sell his budget plan is intended to appeal to voters who would relish a hefty tax cut, even over two years. But he failed to factor in that more than half of those tax cuts would apply only to employers, not regular Floridians. In calculating the savings, it appears clear that Scott and his office simply divided the entire tax cut as projected by Scott -- $4.1 billion -- by the entire number of Florida households -- 7.5 million -- to reach their average savings of $540. That's easy math. But it's deceptive." "Scott’s budget includes big tax cuts, but not for everybody". Related: "Gov. Rick Scott overstated budget cuts, legislators say".
12,000 school jobs axed
"12,000 jobs axed, but Florida schools fear more cuts". See also "Senators Take Aim at Scott’s Education Budget".
Florida insurers laffing all the way to the bank
"Health insurers that overcharge Florida consumers won't be required to issue rebate checks here, one of a raft of consequences emerging after a federal lower court judge declared the Affordable Care Act void."
Emboldened by Florida federal Judge Roger Vinson's decision that mandatory insurance is unconstitutional and the entire health act invalid, Republican state officials have taken the position that the law is not in effect in Florida."States revolt over health reform, Florida says it's not the law here".
As a result, they will not enforce a new rule requiring insurers to spend 80 to 85 percent of consumers' premiums on health care services.
They've snubbed $2 million worth of federal health reform planning grants meant to help states regulate their insurance industry and set up state-based insurance markets for individuals and small businesses.
It appears that Florida's stance leaves insurance companies to decide for themselves whether to comply with health reform rules.
A family friendly company
"Disney profit leaps 54 percent as theme parks bounce back". Meanwhile, "Disney is offering a 25-cent pay raise to workers on the lower end of the pay scale, but they want 35 cents."
Dear fellow teabagger ...
Bill Cotterell: "Gov. Rick Scott has upset some state employees, among others, with a message his information-control office posted late last week and early this week. It coincided with the rollout of his budget and came on the heels of the Pensacola federal court ruling that President Obama's national health care plan was not exactly what the Founders had in mind when they wrote about life and liberty."
Scott got his political start with a campaign called "Conservatives for Patient Rights," a prelude to his race for governor. So it's not surprising that his "Dear Team" message began:"Scott's e-mail riles the troops".
"This week, a federal judge ruled Obamacare unconstitutional, as many of us predicted. This over-reaching law hurts small businesses, doctors and patients — and infringes on our freedom. To pay for Obamacare, the federal government enacted some of the largest tax hikes in our nation's history.
"I call on President Obama and the federal government to immediately repeal the six tax increases that are part of Obamacare. Furthermore, the federal government needs to roll back the 18 new or higher taxes put into place to pay for this massive spending bill."
Copies of his message came bounding into my e-mail inbox Friday afternoon, from people who didn't like the governor's office being used to champion one side of a hot political issue. I suspect most were unhappy with Scott's using his public megaphone to champion the side of the issue that they, personally, don't share.
The critics were no happier with the next part of Scott's missive, about his budget recommendations.
"In these tough economic times, there will be deep cuts. In fact, my budget will cut $5 billion in state spending while also cutting taxes. It will be one of the most fiscally responsible budgets in the nation.
"In the days ahead, the special interests and those who support big-government solutions will attack my budget. They don't recognize — as you and I do — these times require a bold new path.
"... During these attacks, I ask you to stand with me. Let's tell them that enough is enough."
"Companies spar over legality, 'fairness' in legislative battle". "Dosal: Big Tobacco Blowing Smoke Over Tax".
"The House Appropriations Committee pondered Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget Thursday afternoon and began the long, difficult process of crafting a budget despite a large shortfall." "House Appropriations Begins to Grapple With Rick Scott Budget".
Rick Scott’s priorities
"On Wednesday, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, questioned Gov. Rick Scott’s budget staff about the priorities of a proposal that would provide additional funding to the state’s Medicaid program while slashing spending on education." "Unlike Scott, Negron wants immediate savings on Medicaid". See also "State senators weigh Medicaid limits".
Haridopolos "out of whack"
"Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos told a University of Florida audience Thursday that state workers must face benefit cuts to help balance the budget. Speaking before some of the UF faculty and staff who make up that workforce, he said the state can no longer afford the health care and retirement benefits now provided to public employees. The benefits are "out of whack" with those received in the private sector, he said." "Haridopolos: Public employees must take benefit cut".
Limbaugh breathes a sigh of relief
"Scott's proposal to repeal a state law designed to crack down on 'pill mills' before it has been implemented doesn't sit well with top cops in Volusia and Flagler counties." "Cops wary of repeal of pill mill crackdown". Fred Grimm: "Move to kill Florida pill-mill database not appreciated in Kentucky". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Scott irresponsibly wrong on abolishing drug database". The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Editorial: Gov. Scott's call for repeal of pill mill law ill-advised". The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Scott's pill puzzler" ("What's disconcerting is what this tactless and irresponsible surprise says about the governor's leadership and communication skills, or lack of them.")
Scott forcing taxpayers to subsidize business expenses
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "President Barack Obama has a reasonable plan to help states like Florida that have borrowed billions from Washington to cover jobless benefits during this period of record unemployment . But Republican Gov. Rick Scott would rather force Florida taxpayers to subsidize business expenses and cut state spending on education and other state needs. " "Help turned down; pain turned up".
"Battle lines are forming over whether or not Florida should continue to hold its presidential primary election weeks before other states, a plan opposed by national party leaders." "Battle brewing over Florida's 2012 presidential primary date".
RPOFers slam the unemployed
"Unemployed Floridians would work harder to earn fewer state benefits under a pair of proposals on the fast track in the Florida Legislature. On Thursday, a divided House committee approved a bill from Republican leaders that would:"
• Make it easier to fire employees. [As if it isn't easy enough already]"Florida unemployment proposals would cut benefits".
• Put more burden on workers to prove they deserve benefits if employers appeal.
• Reduce weekly unemployment checks from the state from 26 weeks to as few as 12.
Arizona-style legislator threatened by "political activist"
"Martin County Circuit Judge Kathleen Roberts set bond today at $450,000 for Manuel Pintado, the self-described 'political activist' from Massachusetts accused of threatening state Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, because he disagrees with Snyder's proposed immigration bill." "$450,000 bond set for Mass. man charged with threatening state lawmaker".
A deal for 1.9 million bucks
"Bing Energy of Chino, Calif., announced Thursday it would move its headquarters and production facility to Florida. The company is working with Florida State University to build fuel cells and expects to grow from 12 to 244 jobs in about seven years. Bing chief financial officer Dean Minardi said the company received a $1.9 million tax rebate from Florida's Qualified Target Industry program." "Bing Energy to move headquarters to Florida, lured by prospect of tax cuts".
We'd like to see the guarantee that this is anything but 1.9 million bucks for merely 12 jobs?
"Florida cannot fire its way to excellence"
A teacher bill won a favorable vote in the Senate education committee yesterday,
with its sponsor saying, "We're not here to punish teachers.""Merit-pay bill passes key Senate committee".
The bill, SB 736, overhauls how teachers are evaluated and paid, relying in large part on student growth on standardized tests to judge instructional quality.
It is Florida's second foray in as many years into the controversial arena of teacher merit pay. The Legislature passed a bill last year, but then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it.
The new bill leaves untouched current pay plans — based largely on years worked — for teachers already on the job. But new teachers would get raises based on their performance and would not have the tenure-like protections current teachers have.
All teachers, however, would be evaluated under the new system that would use student growth on tests as a key measure but try to take into account factors outside a teacher's control, such as youngsters' absentee rates. ...
The new bill also is "very troubling to teachers" for its heavy reliance on student testing and its assumption that getting rid of some teachers would dramatically improve schools, said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.
"Florida cannot fire its way to excellence," Ford said.
More Scott backsliding
"Scott said this week that he won't ask the Legislature to take up his proposal this spring for "education savings accounts." He had previously spoken favorably of the idea, which was advocated by his education transition team but was also likely to spark legal challenges."
One option the governor will advocate is to pump up an existing program that allows students to transfer out of struggling schools. He wants the list of schools students can flee to jump dramatically."Gov. Scott pitches expansion of public-school choice".
RPOFer stewardship of tax dollars
The wingnuts like to say it is "our" tax money.
However, Scott Maxwell points out that "By now, you probably know that some of your elected officials are fighting to overturn your vote for Fair Districts. But did you know they're spending your money to do so? Yes indeed — to the tune of $300-an-hour legal bills." "You're spending $300 an hour to overturn your own vote".
Scott's scheme to fire hundreds of correctional officers DOA
"The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee declared Gov. Scott’s plan to fire hundreds of correctional officers 'dead on arrival.' ... Fasano expressed shock when Scott budget aide Bonnie Rogers defended putting more inmates in private prisons, so as to save $2.8 million by dismissing 619 prison guards, even though state prisons have thousands of unused beds."
“What the governor wants to do is put 619 families on the unemployment line so we can move prisoners from the public sector to the private sector,” Fasano said."Top lawmaker says he won’t cut correctional officers".
Rogers, former chief of staff in the Department of Corrections, said the seven private prisons can reconfigure their space to house up to 1,500 more inmates. The private prisons are paid per inmate housed — meaning potentially more profit for the private firms.
To save the Florida Panther
"A coalition of environmental groups has petitioned the government to start transplanting Florida panthers to Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp." "Groups want to put Fla. panthers in Ga. swamp".